When television advertising first begain, it was very different from what we now experience. TV advertising began as a series of shows that were created by advertising agencies to sponsor a single product or company. The advertising agencies then paid the television networks to run these sponsored shows on their networks. This model worked great for advertisers until rising costs made the investment prohibitive. This dramatic rise in cost over the years force a rethink of television advertising by everyone involved in the industry: the TV networks, the advertisers and the advertisign agencies.
In the late 1950’s, NBC executive Sylvester L. “Pat” Weaver came up a with a soution that would work and would also be very favorable to the networks. He introduced the “magazine concept” of television advertising. In this arrangement, the spondors would purchase blocks of time (typically one to two minutes) in a show rather than be a sponsor for an entire show. This idea would allow a variety of sponsors – up to four was the number imagined – for a show. Like a magazine, the networks would now control the content as no one advertiser would “own” a particular show.
Like all new ideas, this one was originally resisted by Masison Avenue but after a bit of experimentation, they found that this method would work very well for a variety of packaged-goods companies manufacturing a cornucopia of brand names, such as Procter and Gamble with such disparate products as Tide (laundry detergent), Crest (toothpaste), and Jif (peanut butter).
By 1960, the magazine concept dominated television advertising, as it has ever since. Instead of relying on audience identification with a specific show, sponsors now spread their messages across the schedule in an effort to reach as many consumers as possible. The ability to spread their advertising dollars out to reach a broader segment of the population proved to be very effective for the sponsors. Where once they were locked into a specific time block every day or every week on a particular network, they could now choose the times and the networks where they wanted their message to be seen.
This evolution of magazine concept advertising is truly the birth of most modern television advertising. The one exception is the infomercial which is really a throwback to the sponsored show model used in the early days of television advertising.
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